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McCormick, McVicker and Hamilton to present papers at Literary London conference
Monday, April 22, 2013

English department faculty Adrienne McCormick, Jeanette McVicker and Katrina Hamilton will present papers during a panel titled, “Mapping London: Englishness and Otherness in Literary, Journalistic, and Filmic Narratives," at the Annual Literary London Conference at the University of London July 17 to 19.

The conference theme is “London in Crisis and Disorder." The Panel, “Mapping London: Englishness and Otherness in Literary, Journalistic, and Filmic Narratives” explores three sets of texts that disrupt and reframe imaginings of London spaces through various encounters with otherness.

Dr. McCormick's paper, titled, “Time, Space, and (Dis)connection in There But For The, City of the Mind, and NW,” examines how authors, Ali Smith, Penelope Lively, and Zadie Smith all utilize narrative forms that treat time thematically as well as in terms of its structural logic in narrative. Ali Smith’s novel is set in Greenwich and questions “where we are in the world and who decides what the centre of things is.” Lively uses geographical spaces as a narrative conduit from one time to another, exploring “the jigsaw of time and reference.” And Zadie Smith writes that NW is a book “about time, and about how time feels to people and how to deal with it. That's the simplest answer and the most honest.” These authors explore time in order to position their characters in spaces that unsettle contemporary understandings of cultural, temporal, and locational difference and distance. Their narratives re-imagine the role that space and time play in organizing Englishness and otherness in London’s contemporary cultural geography.

Dr. McVicker's paper, “Traumatic Narratives, Domestic Frames: News, Crisis, and Nationalism,” focuses on journalistic narratives of war/terror and how they (re)shape literary domestic or ”homefront” space in terms of nationalist identity and otherness. Virginia Woolf’s “Three Guineas” and Ian McEwan’s “Saturday,” expose how journalistic narratives manipulate domestic spatial allegiances. For Woolf, the newspapers bringing news and, particularly, photographs of the Spanish Civil War horror (“dead bodies and ruined houses”) function as propaganda that seeks to overcode British domestic space in terms of nationalism, patriotism and citizenship, and for McEwan, the post 9/11 media coverage of terrorism and anti-war protests frames domestic space utilizing a more sophisticated sort of interpellation as domestic spectacle, with specific implications for a multi-racial city such as London. In these texts, news coverage of traumatic events related to war/terrorism overcode/interrupt narratives of the nation, patriotism, citizenship and the domestic spaces they are presumed to shape and protect.

The third and final paper, Katrina Hamilton's “Mapping London at Night,” juxtaposes readings of Charles Dickens’s “Night Walks,” Virginia Woolf’s “Street Haunting: A London Adventure,” and William Raban’s film The Houseless Shadow, a reimagining of Dickens’s essay commissioned by the Museum of London for the 2012 Dickens and London exhibit. Collectively, these works explore specific London streets with dichotomous images of light and dark, exclusion and inclusion, creating a topographical ethos for two vastly different areas. Narratorial tone punctuates a range of experience from Dickens’ critical lament over his uneasy sense of houselessness to Woolf’s exuberant embrace nightwalking and the encounters it affords, to Raban’s disengaged observations of both homelessness and random connections on London’s streets at night.

As a whole, this panel explores literary representations of London’s changing cultural geography, through the temporal logics of narrative, the intersections of news media and nationalism, and articulations of belonging and alienation, at-homeness, houselessness, and homelessness, in London’s night-time landscape.

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